The 2008 vintage has been the most talked subject in Champagne for some time. Hailed as the next best thing since 2002, each new release is more keenly anticipated than the last, and now that prestige cuvées are beginning to surface, excitement has reached fever pitch. One champagne that has received the bulk of attention is Dom Pérignon 2008.
This week, to coincide with the announcement that current Chef de Cave Richard Geoffroy will be retiring on 1st January 2019 (to be succeeded by Vincent Chaperon), the house also finally revealed Dom Pérignon 2008. The London launch took place at the stunning La Résidence de France in Kensington.
“It was a miracle year,” Geoffroy began. In a decade characterised by sunny and warm summers, the grey and overcast skies of 2008 were unexpected and unwelcome. “It wasn’t proper ripening weather… so we accepted it would be an average vintage,” Geoffroy added. However, nothing in Champagne is a foregone conclusion. Indeed, as in 2000 and 2006, a miraculous September was the saviour of the vintage. As the pickers began harvesting the grapes, the weather transitioned from fine to outstanding, prompting Geoffroy to decelerate the picking process. The 2008 harvest was consequently one of the longest ever (close to a month) and maturity levels surpassed all initial expectations.
Timing was therefore the crucial component tin 2008 and Geoffroy attributes the success of the vintage to the lessons learned from 1996. When Dom Pérignon 1996 was produced, it was believed that acidity was the key to ageing. This has since been shown to be a misconception and phenolic compounds are now considered the key factor in determining champagne’s ability to age.
“Dom Pérignon Vintage 2008 contributes to the overall understanding of the 2008 vintage in Champagne“ — Richard Geoffroy, Chef de Cave
Although making clear that “there are never two identical vintages”, Geoffroy noted the similarities between 1996 and 2008. Both had high acidity, however the 1996 vintage was picked far too early and had too low a level of ripeness. Without pushing for full ripeness, there was a lower phenolic content in the grapes, hence some 1996 champagnes are now beginning to show their age. “Without 1996, we would not have been able to stretch 2008 as far and leverage it to another level. There is way more to 2008 than 1996 – more substance,” Geoffroy said.
High expectations in the market for 2008 were amplified by the unprecedented decision to release Dom Pérignon 2009 last year, ahead of 2008 – the first non-consecutive release in the history of the house. Dom Pérignon 2008 required more time on the lees to balance the bright acidity, so Geoffroy patiently waited for a reciprocity between the vintage and the Dom Pérignon style.
As typical for the house, Dom Pérignon 2008 is a blend of 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay. Upon release in a few months’ time, it will have had more than 12 months post-disgorgement ageing on the cork. At the launch event this week, we tasted the new release alongside a recently disgorged Dom Pérignon P2 1996.
|Dom Pérignon 2008
50% PN, 50% CH | Lees Ageing: ~8 Years
Rich fruit nose is quite forward, with that trade mark match-strike smoky character quite subtle. Smokey bacon and forward pineapple and guarva are forward on the palate with underlying ripe lemons and bright red apples all wrapped around a texture from long lees aging; Finishes very fresh and light, dances on the palate with a hint of that saline and twist of bitterness which really help balance the delicacy and finish. 19+/20
|Dom Pérignon P2 1996
50% PN, 50% CH | Lees Ageing: ~15 Years | Dosage: 6 g/L
Very toasty notes to start, that reductive style, densely packed with bundles and layers of fruit. Some distinct hay character on the palate, with long lees ageing giving it real depth and texture; lemon and lime freshness and still that bright acidity, but not at all dominant giving way to a dry and fresh finish with real saline and chalky finish. Still showing very fresh and well balanced and getting better with longer lees ageing. Recently disgorged a year ago. 19/20
At the launch event, we honoured the transition of Chef de Caves by tasting champagnes from the vintages in which they both joined Dom Pérignon. Chaperon started at Moët & Chandon in 1999, eventually joining the Dom Pérignon team in 2005, as head of red wine for the rosé champagne. Wanting to shake off the reputation of Dom Pérignon rosé as shy and reserved, Chaperon began pushing the Pinot Noir expression darker and deeper. His first vintage, Dom Pérignon Rosé 2005 was a huge success: a strong Pinot Noir year in which the house prioritised the rosé over the blanc and why DP blanc 2005 was only in the market for six months.
Geoffroy took over at Dom Pérignon from previous Chef de Cave Dominique Foulon in 1990, just in time to oversee the creation of this stunning vintage. Having been kept on the lees for more than 25 years, the champagne has now reached its third plénitude, the ultimate peak of development. Dom Pérignon P3 1990 has a deeply complex palate with an abundance of dried fruits and brioche. A real masterpiece.
|Dom Pérignon Rosé 2005
70% PN, 30% CH | 27% Red Wine | Lees Ageing: ~10 Years | Dosage: 5.5 g/L
Strong red fruit nose with peach and black cherries. On the palate the tannins are all there yet they have a silkyness and finesse and with 28% red wine added its no surprise we can detect the tannins. It seems very youthful at present and I suspect this rose is going to be super great with longer lees ageing at the P2 release time. A very forward and strong rose with a great future ahead. 18.5+/20
|Dom Pérignon P3 1990
58% CH, 42% PN | Lees Ageing: ~25 Years
Has a laid back almost lazy elegance on the nose a blend of creaminess and brioche combined with rich, dried fruits like apricot and papaya. A light spritz with elegance on the palate. This is a beautiful representation of a champagne hitting its 3rd phase of maturity, very long lees ageing has kept this fresh and elegant and still some fruits like lime, lemons, apricots and layers of buttery pastry and creme brûlée. Lovely long finish and saline kick at the end. 19.5/20
To mark the transition in Chef de Cave from Richard Geoffroy to Vincent Chaperon, Dom Pérignon 2008 will be released under two different labels. A special Legacy Edition with both winemakers named on the label (pictured right), will be available in November. The standard Vintage 2008 label will be available in early-2019.
Looking to the future, there was no Dom Pérignon made in 2011, thus Dom Pérignon 2010 will likely be the next release. Dom Pérignon P2 2002 is also on its way and will be available in spring 2019.